Ring-necked duck. Tyler Schank/Duluth News Tribune

In this column, I will continue my review of some of the Maine Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) conducted between mid-December and early January. Each CBC is conducted within a circle of 15 miles in diameter on a single day. The data from all the CBCs are collated by the National Audubon Society and provide a powerful tool for assessing changes in winter bird populations.

The Portland CBC usually has the highest species count of all Maine CBCs and that trend continued with 103 species recorded. Twenty species of waterfowl were found with the most unusual being a pair of gadwall and three ring-necked ducks.

Common loons abounded with 426 spotted along with 20 red-throated loons. Grebes were harder to come by with 42 of both horned grebes and red-necked grebes. A straggling pied-billed grebe was a nice find.

Forty black guillemots were the most abundant members of the auk family with two thick-billed murres and seven razorbills adding some diversity. It is shaping up to be a poor winter for northerly gulls with only one Iceland gull and no glaucous gulls present.

Lingering land birds included six belted kingfishers, three yellow-bellied sapsuckers, 15 northern flickers, three winter wrens, a marsh wren, nine ruby-crowned kinglets, six hermit thrushes, a savannah sparrow, three swamp sparrows, 10 red-winged blackbirds, and three brown-headed cowbirds

Rare birds were two orange-crowned warblers and a dickcissel. Northern finches were scarce with four common redpolls, 24 red crossbills and a long pine siskin present.


Let’s compare two CBCs in adjacent towns: Bangor and Orono. The Orono CBC on Dec. 17 recorded 49 species. A snow goose and three Barrow’s goldeneye were the most unusual of the seven waterfowl species.

Compared to Portland and other southerly Maine CBCs, Orono had few lingering land birds from the summer: a northern flicker, six eastern bluebirds and three northern mockingbirds. Six species of finches were present, highlighted by 21 purple finches and 57 evening grosbeaks.

The Bangor CBC on Dec. 31 had 59 species. Only seven species of waterfowl were found with the 661 mallards easily being the most common. Only four common goldeneyes were found, a surprisingly low total. One common loon was still sticking around. Six species of hawks were tallied with a northern harrier and a red-shouldered hawk being the most notable.

As in Orono, few lingering birds were found. These included 30 eastern bluebirds, a chipping sparrow, and a field sparrow. Six finch species were spotted including 20 pine grosbeaks, 15 common redpolls and 19 evening grosbeaks.

The Mount Desert Island CBC had 61 species on Dec. 18. Fourteen species of waterfowl appeared with the 701 mallards being most common. This area is a good wintering area for common eiders so the 357 tallied here were not surprising.

Common loons were just that with 111 found along with a trio of red-throated loons. In the same near-shore habitat, the counters found 36 horned grebes and 46 red-necked grebes. The 40 razorbills constituted a fine record.


Lingering birds included a great blue heron, a Carolina wren and a yellow-rumped warbler. Seven species of finches were found, with the 84 red crossbills, eight white-winged crossbills, 168 pine siskins and 18 evening grosbeaks being most noteworthy.

Let’s head just a few miles north and east where the Schoodic CBC started the new year right with a count of 57 species. Thirteen species of waterfowl included 20 harlequin ducks and an impressive high count of 354 buffleheads. Loons found were 40 common loons and one of the red-throated persuasion. Grebe numbers were modest with 20 horned grebes and 21 red-necked grebes.

The four species of gulls included eight black-legged kittiwakes, an uncommon gull so far this winter in Maine. This count had a dearth of lingering land birds. The five species of northern finches included 83 red crossbills, 91 pine siskins and 19 evening grosbeaks.

Herb Wilson taught ornithology and other biology courses at Colby College. He welcomes reader comments and questions at whwilson@colby.edu

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